• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Saterfrisian
  • Afrikaans
Show all
6.5.Clausal subjects
quickinfo

In the preceding sections, we have restricted our attention to predicatively used adjectives with nominal subjects, such as Jan in (200a) and (201a). In addition, many adjectives can take a clausal subject, which is generally introduced by the anticipatory pronoun het'it'. The clausal subject can often be either finite or infinitival. Examples are given in (200b-c) and (201b-c); PRO in (200c) and (201c) stands for the implied subject of the infinitival clause.

200
a. Jan is leuk.
  Jan is nice
b. Het is leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  it  is nice   that  Marie my favorite book  reads
  'Itʼs nice that Marie is reading my favorite book.'
c. Het is leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  it  is nice  comp  my favorite book  to read
  'Itʼs nice to read my favorite book.'
201
a. Ik vind Jan leuk.
  consider  Jan nice
b. Ik vind het leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  consider  it  nice   that  Marie my favorite book  reads
c. Ik vind het leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  consider  it  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read

The reason to consider the clause in these examples as the subject of the adjective is that the semantic relation between leuk'nice' and Jan in (200a) and (201a) is similar to the semantic relation between leuk and the propositions expressed by the dependent clauses in (200b-c) and (201b-c): both the referent “Jan" and the events “Marie is reading my favorite book"/“PRO reading my favorite book" are considered to be part of the set denoted by leuk. This section is organized as follows, subsection I starts by discussing some general properties of constructions with a clausal subject, subsections II and III focus on adjectival constructions that contain a finite and an infinitival clausal subject, respectively. Section IV, finally, discusses two special cases: the easy-to-please-construction and modal infinitives.

readmore
[+]  I.  General properties

This subsection discusses some general properties of adjectival constructions that contain a finite or infinitival clausal subject.

[+]  A.  The relation between the anticipatory pronoun and the clausal subject

The dependent clauses in (200b-c) and (201b-c) are optional. Since logical subjects are normally obligatorily present, it is often assumed that, syntactically speaking, these clauses are not the real subjects of the adjective. That they are interpreted as the subject is due to their relation to the anticipatory pronoun het'it', which functions as the syntactic subject of the adjective. The relation between the pronoun and the clause is expressed by means of coindexation, as in (202).

202
a. Heti is leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest]i.
  it  is nice  that  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. Heti is leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen]i.
  it  is nice comp  my favorite book to read
b. Ik vind heti leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest]i.
  consider  it  nice    that  Marie my favorite book  reads
b'. Ik vind heti leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen]i.
  consider  it  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read
[+]  B.  No anticipatory pronoun if the clausal subject is clause-initial

The anticipatory pronoun functions like a “place-holder" for the subject clause, which is normally placed at the right edge of the matrix clause. This placeholder must be dropped, however, if the subject clause is placed in clause-initial position, as in (203). This provides additional evidence for the assumption that the clauses in (202) are the logical subjects of the adjective.

203
a. [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] is (*het) leuk.
  that Marie my favorite book reads  is     it  nice
a'. [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] is (*het) leuk.
  comp  my favorite book to read  is     it  nice
b. [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] vind ik (*het) leuk.
  that Marie my favorite book reads  consider  I        it  nice
b'. [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] vind ik (*het) leuk.
  comp  my favorite book  to read  consider     it  nice

      It should be observed that, although the anticipatory pronoun het must be dropped in the (a)-examples of (203), the clausal subject does not occupy the regular subject position of the matrix clause, but the sentence-initial position that can be occupied by, for instance, wh-phrases and topicalized elements. This is clear from the fact that the clause cannot follow the finite verb in yes/no questions, and from the fact that preposing of the clause is not possible in embedded clauses. This is illustrated in (204) and (205), respectively.

204
a. * Is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] leuk?
  is   that Marie my favorite book reads  nice
b. * Is [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] leuk?
  is   comp  my favorite book  to read  nice
205
a. dat het leuk is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that  it  nice  is   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. * dat [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] leuk is.
b. dat het leuk is [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  that  it  nice  is comp  my favorite book  to read
b'. * dat [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] leuk is.

Just as the clausal subject cannot occupy the regular subject position of the clause in the copular constructions above, it cannot occupy the regular object position of the clause in the vinden-construction either. This is shown in (206).

206
a. * Ik vind [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] leuk.
b. * Ik vind [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] leuk.

      Although examples (204) to (206) show that the clausal subjects in (203) clearly do not occupy the same position as the anticipatory pronouns in (202), the fact that the anticipatory pronoun het cannot be used in (203) strongly suggests that topicalization of the subject clauses does not take place in one fell swoop, but proceeds via the position occupied by the anticipatory pronoun het in (202); if so, this position is occupied by a trace of the clause, and consequently insertion of the “place-holder" cannot take place. We refer the reader to Den Dikken and Næss (1993) for arguments in favor of the claim that topicalization of clauses may proceed through the regular argument (subject or object) positions of the clause based on English and Norwegian Locative Inversion constructions.

[+]  C.  Anticipatory pronoun is optional with clause-initial predicative adjectives

If the adjective is preposed, as in (207), the anticipatory pronoun is optionally present, although the two cases differ slightly in intonation and meaning. If the anticipatory pronoun is present, it is followed by a short intonation break and the sentence simply expresses that the event the clausal subject refers to can be characterized by means of the adjective leuk'nice'. If the anticipatory pronoun is absent, on the other hand, there is no intonation break and the sentence expresses that from among the things under discussion the event expressed by the subject clause can be characterized as leuk'nice'; the sentence is contrastive, as is clear form the fact that the adjective must be assigned contrastive accent in this case.

207
a. Leuk is (het) [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  nice  is   it   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. Leuk is (het) [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  nice  is   it  comp  my favorite book  to read
b. Leuk vind ik (het) [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  nice  consider   it   that Marie my favorite book reads
b'. Leuk vind ik (het) [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  nice  consider   it is  comp  my favorite book  to read
[+]  D.  The adjective and its clausal subject cannot be preposed as a whole

The examples in (208) show that the adjective and the clausal subject cannot be preposed as a whole (although for some speakers these examples are acceptable if the adverb niet is assigned heavy accent). This suggests that the adjective and the clausal subject do not form a constituent.

208
a. *? Leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] is (het) niet.
  nice  that  Marie my favorite book  reads  is  it  not
a'. * Leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] is (het) niet.
  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read  is  it  not
b. *? Leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] vind ik (het).
  nice that  Marie my favorite book  reads  consider   it
b'. * Leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] vind ik (het).
  nice  comp  my favorite book  to read  consider   it

There is, however, one exception to this general rule: adjectives that take an interrogative clause as their subject if they are negated do allow topicalization of this kind. This will be discussed in Subsection II.

[+]  E.  The clausal subject follows the verb(s) in clause-final position

That the adjective and the clausal subject do not form a constituent is also suggested by the fact that the clausal subject is not adjacent to the adjective in embedded clauses but obligatorily follows the verb(s) in clause-final position. This is demonstrated in (209) and (210).

209
a. dat het leuk is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that  it  nice  is  that  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. * dat het leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] is.
b. dat het leuk is [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  that  it  nice  is   comp  my favorite book  to read
b'. * dat het leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] is.
210
a. dat ik het leuk vind [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that  it  nice  consider   that  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. * dat ik het leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest] vind.
b. dat ik het leuk vind [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen].
  that  it  nice  consider  comp  my favorite book  to read
b'. * dat ik het leuk [om PRO mijn favoriete boek te lezen] vind.
[+]  II.  Finite clausal subjects

This subsection focuses on adjectives that take a finite clausal subject. It will be shown that these adjectives must be divided into two classes on syntactic grounds; cf. Bennis (2004). Some care is needed while reading this subsection, since much of what is discussed here is still under investigation, and speakers of Dutch tend to have different judgments on the examples discussed.
      We have seen that some adjectives, like leuk in (200), may take either a nominal or a clausal subject. Another example is given in (211). The fact that, as with leuk, the subject clause is optional with duidelijk suggests that the anticipatory pronoun functions as the syntactic subject of the adjective. The coindexing between the anticipatory pronoun het and the finite clause in (211b&c) is again used to express that the clause functions as the logical subject of the adjective.

211
a. Het voorstel is (mij) eindelijk duidelijk.
  the proposal  is  me  finally  clear
  'The proposal is finally clear to me.'
b. Heti is eindelijk duidelijk ([dat Jan de baan zal krijgen]i).
  it  is finally  clear    that  Jan the job  will  get
  'Itʼs finally clear that Jan will get the job.'
c. Ik acht heti wel duidelijk ([dat Jan de baan zal krijgen]i).
  consider  it  prt  clear    that  Jan the job  will  get
  'I consider it clear that Jan will get the job.'

Constructions with duidelijk also act as expected with respect to the other properties discussed in Subsection I: the (a)-examples in (212) and (213) show that the anticipatory pronoun must be dropped if the subject clause occupies the sentence-initial position; the (b)-examples that the anticipatory pronoun is optional if the adjective occupies the sentence-initial position; the (c)-examples that the adjective and the clausal subject cannot be preposed as a whole; and the (d)-examples, finally, that the clausal subject must follow the verb(s) in clause-final position.

212
a. [Dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] is (*het) eindelijk duidelijk.
  that  Jan the job  will  get  is      it  finally  clear
b. Duidelijk is (het) eindelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
c. *? Duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] is (het) eindelijk.
d. dat het eindelijk duidelijk is [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
d'. * dat het eindelijk duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] is.
213
a. [Dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] acht ik (*het) wel duidelijk.
  that  Jan the job  will  get  consider      it  prt  clear
b. Duidelijk acht ik (het) wel [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
c. * Duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] acht ik (het) wel.
d. dat ik het wel duidelijk acht [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
d'. * dat ik het wel duidelijk [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen] acht.

There are, however, also various differences between the two adjectives leuk and duidelijk, which will be discussed in the following subsections.

[+]  A.  The anticipatory pronoun het'it'

There is a conspicuous difference between the examples in (200b) and (211b), in which the anticipatory pronoun is the nominative subject of the sentence: when the anticipatory pronoun het follows the finite verb in second position, as in the primeless examples in (214), it can be dropped if the adjective is duidelijk, but not if the adjective is leuk. A similar difference can be observed in the primed examples, where the clause containing the anticipatory pronoun is embedded.

214
a. Natuurlijk is *(het) leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  of course is    it  nice   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. dat *(het) leuk is [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that     it  nice  is  that Marie my favorite book reads
b. Eindelijk is (het) duidelijk [dat Jan de baan moet krijgen].
  finally  is   it  clear   that Jan the job must get
b'. dat (het) duidelijk is [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  that   it  clear  is  that Jan the job will get

In the vinden-constructions the anticipatory pronoun is normally obligatorily present, as is demonstrated in (215). In officialese, however, the anticipatory pronoun can be dropped if the verb achten is used. This is shown in (216).

215
a. Natuurlijk vind ik *(het) leuk [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  of course  consider     it  nice   that Marie my favorite book reads
a'. dat ik *(het) leuk vind [dat Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  that     it  nice  consider   that Marie my favorite book reads
b. Nu vindt ook Peter *?(het) duidelijk [dat Jan de baan moet krijgen].
  now  considers  also Peter    it  clear   that Jan the job must get
b'. dat ook Peter *?(het) duidelijk vindt [dat Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  that  also Peter      it  clear  considers   that Jan the job will get
216
dat het hof bewezen acht [dat ...]
  that  the court  proved  considers   that
'that the court considers it proven that ...'
[+]  B.  Interrogative clauses

Another difference between the adjectives leuk and duidelijk is that if the adjective is negated, the declarative subject clause can be replaced by a dependent interrogative clause in the case of duidelijk, but not in the case of leuk. This is illustrated in (217) by means of the contrast between the (a)- and (b)-examples. Note that the (b)-examples are acceptable regardless of whether negation is expressed syntactically by the negative adverb niet'not' or morphologically by the negative prefix on-.

217
a. * Het is niet leuk [of Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  it  is not  nice   whether  Marie my favorite book  reads
a'. * Ik vind het niet leuk [of Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  consider  it  not  nice whether  Marie my favorite book  reads
b. Het is onduidelijk/niet duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  it  is unclear/not clear   whether  Jan the job  will get
  'Itʼs unclear/not clear whether Jan will get the job.'
b'. Ik vind het nog onduidelijk/niet duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  consider  it  still  unclear/not clear   whether Jan the job will get
  'I consider it still unclear/not clear whether Jan will get the job.'

Note in passing that adjectives that are morphologically derived from verbs that select a dependent interrogative clause, such as twijfelachtig'uncertain' (derived from twijfelen'to doubt'), must take an interrogative complement.

218
Het is twijfelachtig [of Marie mijn favoriete boek leest].
  it is uncertain  whether  Marie my favorite book  reads

Given that dependent interrogative clauses typically occur as complements of certain verbs, it is normally assumed that they are selected: the examples in (217) therefore suggest that the clausal subjects in the (b)-examples are complements of the adjective. In other words, adjectives like ( on) duidelijk are the counterparts of unaccusative verbs like vertrekken'to leave' in the sense that their clausal subjects are DO-subjects (internal arguments). There are at least two additional arguments in favor of this suggestion.

[+]  1.  Topicalization

If the finite clauses in the (b)-examples in (217) are DO-subjects of the adjective ( on) duidelijk, the two make up a constituent. Consequently, we expect that the two can be moved into clause-initial position (provided, at least, that this constituent is not split by movement). This expectation is indeed borne out; consider the data in (219).

219
a. Het is nog steeds niet duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  it  is prt  still  not  clear   whether  Jan the job  will  get
a'. Duidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen] is het nog steeds niet.
b. Het is nog steeds onduidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen].
  it  is prt  still   unclear   whether  Jan the job  will  get
b'. ? Onduidelijk [of Jan de baan zal krijgen] is het nog steeds.

The fact that (219a') is acceptable suggests that the adjective and the finite clause indeed form a constituent. Example (219b') seems somewhat degraded, but improves considerably if it is part of a larger structure: Onduidelijk of Jan de baan zal krijgen is het nog steeds, maar we hopen er morgen meer over te horen'It is still unclear whether Jan will get the job, but we hope that we will hear more about it tomorrow'. Recall that the examples in (208) have already shown that adjectives like leuk do not allow topicalization of this type.
      A potential problem for concluding that duidelijk (always) has a DO-subject is that topicalization of the adjective and the finite clause is excluded if the latter is introduced by the declarative complementizer dat'that'. This was illustrated in (212c). For completeness’ sake, observe that the pronoun het is obligatorily present in the primed examples in (219), unlike what is the case if the adjective or finite clause is topicalized in isolation; cf. the examples in (212a&b).

[+]  2.  Wh-extraction from the finite clause

A second argument in favor of the assumption that duidelijk takes a DO-subject is that, for at least some speakers, duidelijk allows wh-extraction from the finite clause. Since w h-extraction is possible from complement clauses only, this supports the claim that duidelijk takes a DO-subject. Example (220a) shows that adjectives like leuk do not allow wh-extraction, but we cannot conclude from this that leuk does not take a DO-subject; example (220b) shows that in the case of duidelijk, wh-extraction from the finite clause requires that the anticipatory pronoun het be dropped. The pronoun het is, however, obligatory with leuk and it is for this reason that wh-extraction is excluded. For the same reason, wh-extraction is never possible in vinden-constructions such as (220c) because in this construction the pronoun het is likewise obligatory.

220
a. * Wati is (het) leuk [dat Marie ti leest]?
  what  is  it  nice   that Marie  reads
b. Wati is (*het) duidelijk [dat Jan ti zal krijgen]?
  what  is   it  clear   that Jan  will  get
c. * Wati vind je (het) duidelijk [dat Jan ti zal krijgen]?
  what  consider  you    it  clear   that Jan  will  get
[+]  C.  The Resultative Construction

A final difference between leuk and duidelijk is that only the latter can be used in a resultative construction. However, this is probably not related to the difference discussed in B, but to the fact that duidelijk optionally selects a dative argument: an adjective like evident'obvious', which is probably of the same type as duidelijk (see Table 2) but does not select an additional argument, cannot enter the resultative construction either.

221
a. * Peter maakte (het) leuk [dat Jan de baan krijgt].
  Peter made   it  nice   that Jan the job gets
b. Peter maakte (het) ons duidelijk [dat Jan de baan krijgt].
  Peter made  it  us  clear  that Jan the job gets
  'Peter made it clear to us that Jan will get the job.'
c. * Peter maakte (het) evident [dat Jan de baan krijgt].
  Peter made   it  obvious   that Jan the job gets
[+]  D.  Conclusion

When we consider the class of adjectives that may take a finite clause as their logical subject, it is not always easy to determine to which type they belong. This is largely due to the fact that those adjectives that allow dropping of the anticipatory pronoun in constructions such as (214) do not always allow an interrogative clause in negative contexts. Further, results of the wh-extraction test are not always clear since many speakers do not readily allow it anyway. Table 2 provides the results for a small sample of adjectives. In this table pronoun-drop indicates whether the anticipatory pronoun can be dropped in the relevant contexts, interrogative indicates whether the finite clause may be an interrogative clause in negative contexts, and wh-movement indicates whether wh-extraction is possible in the absence of an anticipatory pronoun.

Table 2: Properties of adjectives with a finite clausal subject
adjective translation pronoun-drop interrogative wh-movement
aardig nice n.a.
gevaarlijk dangerous n.a.
pijnlijk embarrassing n.a.
vervelend annoying n.a.
aannemelijk plausible + +
bekend well-known + + +
evident obvious + + +

The adjectives in Table 2 can all take either a noun phrase or a finite clause, but there are also some that preferably take a clausal subject in the sense that subjects of the nominal type are restricted to the personal pronoun het and the neuter demonstratives dit/dat'this/that', which may refer to propositions, or (often marginally) deverbal nouns. Some examples of such adjectives are: jammer/spijtig'unfortunate' and modal adjectives like mogelijk'possible', and zeker'certain'.

222
a. Heti is jammer/spijtig ([dat je vertrekt]i).
  it  is a.pity    that  you  leave
b. Dit/Dat is jammer/spijtig.
  this/that  is a.pity
c. ?? Je vertrek is jammer/spijtig.
  your leaving  is a.pity
d. * De bomaanslag is jammer/spijtig.
  the bomb.attack  is a.pity
223
a. Heti is mogelijk/zeker ([dat Jan vertrekt]i).
  it  is possible/certain    that  Jan leaves
b. Dit/Dat is mogelijk/zeker.
  this/that  is possible/certain
c. ? Zijn vertrek is mogelijk/zeker.
  his leaving  is possible/certain
d. *? De bomaanslag is mogelijk/zeker.
  the bomb.attack  is possible/certain

For completeness’ sake, note that the (a)-examples in (224) are more or less acceptable, which is perhaps due to the possibility of interpreting the indefinite noun phrase een bomaanslag as an event: “the occurrence of a bomb attack". Note in this connection that, as is shown by the (b)-examples, inf-nominalizations can also be used as subjects of these adjectives.

224
a. Een bomaanslag zou nu jammer/spijtig zijn.
  a bomb.attack would  now  a.pity be
a'. Een bomaanslag is nu mogelijk.
  a bomb.attack is now  possible
b. Het krijgen van een onvoldoende zou jammer/spijtig zijn.
  the  getting  of an unsatisfactory.mark  would  a.pity  be
  'Getting an unsatisfactory mark would be a pity.'
b'. Het krijgen van een onvoldoende is nog steeds mogelijk.
  the getting of an unsatisfactory.mark  is prt  still  possible
[+]  III.  Infinitival clausal subjects

This subsection focuses on adjectives that take an infinitival clausal subject. The examples in (225) show that these adjectives may select a, generally optional, van- or voor-PP. The implied subject PRO of the infinitival clause is often dependent on the nominal complement of this PP for its interpretation: the examples in (225) are interpreted in such a way that it is Jan who is complaining/passing the exam. In cases like these, it is said that the implied subject PRO is controlled by the noun phrase it is referentially dependent on, and the referential dependency between the complement of the PP and PRO is expressed by means of subscripts.

225
a. Het is flauw van Jani [om PROi over het examen te klagen].
  it  is silly of Jan  comp  about the exam  to complain
  'Itʼs silly of Jan to complain about the exam.'
b. Het is gemakkelijk voor Jani [om PROi voor het examen te slagen].
  it  is easy  for Jan  comp  for the exam  to pass
  'Itʼs easy for Jan to pass the exam.'

If the van-PP is omitted, it is still presupposed. Because the nominal part of the implicit PP has an arbitrary interpretation, the sentences as a whole are understood “generically". We could represent this as in (226): the italicized phrase stands for the implied PP, NP refers arbitrarily and the implied subject PRO inherits this arbitrary interpretation, which is expressed by means of coindexing; see Van Haaften (1991), Vanden Wyngaerd (1994; ch.6) and references cited there.

226
a. Het is flauw van NPi [om PROi over het examen te klagen].
  it  is silly  comp  about the exam  to complain
  'Itʼs silly to complain about the exam.'
b. Het is gemakkelijk voor NPi [om PROi voor het examen te slagen].
  it  is easy  comp  for the exam  to pass
  'Itʼs easy to pass the exam.'

      The adjectives can be divided into the three groups in (227) on the basis of the interpretational properties of the implied subject PRO; cf. Van Haaften (1991). The infinitival complements of the adjectives in (227) are optionally preceded by the complementizer om. Occasionally adjectives are part of more than one group, depending on the context or the selected preposition. An example is vervelend'annoying', which requires obligatory control if it takes a van-PP (which expresses the source of the annoyance) and is compatible with optional control if it takes a voor-PP (which expresses an entity that is potentially affected by the event denoted by the infinitival clause).

227
a. Obligatory control adjectives optionally select a van- or voor-PP with a +animate complement; PRO is controlled by the nominal complement of the PP.Obligatory control adjectives optionally select a van- or voor-PP with a +animate complement; PRO is controlled by the nominal complement of the PP.
b. Optional control adjectives optionally select a voor-PP with a +animate or a -animate complement; PRO may be controlled by the nominal complement of the PP, but may also receive an arbitrary interpretation.Optional control adjectives optionally select a voor-PP with a +animate or a -animate complement; PRO may be controlled by the nominal complement of the PP, but may also receive an arbitrary interpretation.
c. Arbitrary control adjectives do not select a PP; PRO receives an arbitrary interpretation.

The following subsections will consider the three groups in (227) in more detail. It is, however, important to first observe that the appropriateness of the term obligatory control adjective does not necessarily imply that we are dealing with obligatory control in its more technical sense within generative grammar. Section V4.3 shows that obligatory control in this sense requires that PRO have a unique, c-commanding antecedent within a certain local domain. The simple fact that obligatory control adjectives only optionally select the PPs containing the controller of PRO already suffices to show that we are not dealing with obligatory control in the technical sense. Furthermore, it seems obvious for most of the cases discussed in the following subsections that the infinitival clauses function as logical subjects of the adjectives, and that the PRO-subject of the infinitival clauses are therefore not c-commanded by their controllers, which are more deeply embedded in the predicative APs. For another view on this issue, see Vanden Wyngaerd (1994: Section 6.2).

[+]  A.  Obligatory control adjectives

The obligatory control adjectives select a van- or voor-PP, and the nominal +animate complement of the PP controls the implied subject of the infinitival clause. A small sample is given in (228).

228
Obligatory control adjectives:
aardig'nice', dom'stupid', flauw'silly', gemakkelijk'easy', moeilijk'difficult', mogelijk'feasible' and (on)verstandig'(un)wise', slim'smart' aardig'nice', dom'stupid', flauw'silly', gemakkelijk'easy', moeilijk'difficult', mogelijk'feasible' and ( on) verstandig'(un)wise', slim'smart'

Examples of adjectives that take a van-PP are given in (225a) and (229): the adjective attributes a property to (the behavior of) the referent of the nominal complement of van. The van-PP may be dropped, in which case an arbitrary interpretation results along the lines indicated in (226).

229
Het was verstandig (van Jani) [(om) PROi vroeg te vertrekken].
  it  was wise   of Jan  comp  early  to leave
'It was wise (of Jan) to leave early.'

Examples of adjectives that take a voor-PP are given in (225b) and (230). The referent of the nominal complement of voor acts as an “experiencer": example (230) implies that Jan experiences difficulties in admitting mistakes. If the voor-PP is dropped, PRO again obtains an arbitrary interpretation.

230
Het is moeilijk (voor Jani) [(om) PROi fouten toe te geven].
  it  is difficult   for Jan  comp  mistakes  prt.  to admit
'Itʼs difficult for Jan to admit mistakes.'
[+]  B.  Optional control adjectives

The optional control adjectives select a voor-PP, the nominal complement of which optionally controls the implied subject of the infinitival clause. Two subcases should be distinguished: adjectives that select a PP with a +animate nominal complement, and adjectives that select a PP with a nominal complement that may be either +animate or -animate. A small sample of each type is given in (231).

231
Optional control adjectives:
a. the voor-PP takes a +animate complement: leuk'nice', naar/rot'unpleasant', vervelend'annoying', saai'boring', vernederend'humiliating'the voor-PP takes a +animate complement: leuk'nice', naar/ rot'unpleasant', vervelend'annoying', saai'boring', vernederend'humiliating'
b. the voor-PP takes either a +animate or a -animate complement: belangrijk'important', goed'good', gevaarlijk'dangerous', nodig'necessary', noodzakelijk'necessary', nuttig'profitable', schadelijk'harmful'the voor-PP takes either a +animate or a -animate complement: belangrijk'important', goed'good', gevaarlijk'dangerous', nodig'necessary', noodzakelijk'necessary', nuttig'profitable', schadelijk'harmful'

That the PP-complements of the adjectives in (231a) need not control the implied subject of the infinitival clause can be illustrated by means of the examples in (232). Example (232a) is ambiguous between at least two readings: either it may be the case that Jan takes the book (to someone) or it may be the case that some other person brings the book to Jan. The latter reading can be enforced by adding the indirect object hem to the infinitival clause, as in (232b): if this pronoun is interpreted as coreferential with Jan, the implied subject PRO must be construed as disjoint in reference from Jan given that it would otherwise be illicitly bound by it; see Section N5.2.1.5 for a discussion of the binding conditions on pronouns. As before, coindexing indicates coreference.

232
a. Het is leuk voor Jani [(om) PROi/j dat boek te brengen].
  it  is nice  for Jan  comp  that book  to bring